News Articles

FROM THE STATES: La., S.C. and Tenn. evangelism/missions news; ‘… [T]here’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Christ is on the move’

Today’s From the States features items from: Baptist Message (Louisiana); Baptist Courier (South Carolina); Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee).


La. church sees ‘miraculous’
move of God in Mozambique

By Brian Blackwell

MOZAMBIQUE (Baptist Message) – Modern-day miracles are taking place in Mozambique and Lucas LaCour is thankful he and his fellow church members have a front seat to the revival happening in a cluster of villages.

Since their first mission trip to the country in 2015, Alpine First Baptist Church team members have witnessed more than 40,000 people make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and seen the number of church plants grow from zero to 41.

“It’s miraculous,” Lacour said. “And it’s encouraging and convincing of the power of the Gospel. To see them hear it for the first time, there’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Christ is on the move in Mozambique.”

Cooperating Cajuns

Alpine First Baptist has taken at least three mission trips to Mozambique each year since 2015. They are in the third of a five-year commitment to take teams to an area of the country that is home to Nsenga people, one group of nearly 3,250 that the International Mission Board classifies as an Unreached Unengaged People Group. A people group is considered unreached when the number of evangelical Christians is less than 2 percent of a country’s population and is deemed unengaged when there is no church planting strategy consistent with evangelical faith and practice underway.

For four years prior to 2015, Alpine First Baptist had taken teams to Malawi, which borders Mozambique, before sensing God leading them to explore additional missions possibilities.

Through prayer and research, LaCour learned that the IMB desired to reach the Nsenga people group but lacked the necessary resources to do so.

LaCour was encouraged by the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s LA-340 initiative for 340 Louisiana churches to engage an Unreached Unengaged People Group and sought God’s will for Alpine to take part in the work in the country.

Mozambique is one of the partnerships that span at least 50 countries for which Louisiana Baptists are a part.

Wayne Sheppard, executive assistant to the executive director for Louisiana Baptists, has traveled with LaCour and others on multiple occasions to see how God can use churches in Louisiana to help share Christ and plant multiplying churches who have a great evangelical impact.

“I will never forget the experience of being awakened in our tent from the clamoring of voices,” Sheppard said. “People in the village had gathered before sunrise to hear from this team of Malawians and two white Americans. The excruciating hunger to hear the Word of God reverberated as we arose and immediately began to share the Lord with this village of Nsenga peoples.

“I had the opportunity to venture into the bush of an UUPG on just the second journey among the Nsenga of Mozambique,” he continued. “Already the one church that started on the first journey had multiplied to two. Now as we journeyed from village to village we had the opportunity to see five more begin. I will always cherish the joy of dedication Sunday and preaching to the new believers of a brand-new church that sprang up in that village during the previous week.”

Mozambique miracles

From the time they stepped foot into the country, God’s miraculous hand has been at work.

Prior to crossing the border from Malawi into Mozambique during their first trip, the team was warned about corruption by guards, who could possibly throw them into prison or sentence them to death, recalled Kevin Billiot, pastor of evangelism for Alpine First Baptist.

As they approached the border, the first two people they met were guards.

After a brief conversation, the team led the two men to the Lord, including one of the guards who’d had a vision only 30 minutes before that he would receive a visit from some white men.

The guard led the men to the village chief in Chi-limbu-limbu, the site of their first church plant.

More than 50 people attended the first four-hour service of Alpine Baptist Church of Chi-limbu-limbu. One month later, they baptized 184 in the river nearby.

Billiot said that story is one of many where God was with them throughout their journey.

“The corrupt officials were no match for God who desires to see these people come to faith in Jesus Christ,” Billiot said. “In the same way God gave Joseph favor with Pharaoh, He has done the same for us repeatedly. Every single border guard, every government official, and every village chief we met heard the Gospel; and every one of them gave their lives to Christ.”

While their work includes door-to-door visitation, the largest number of conversions are seen when they show the “JESUS” film.

When a time of invitation is offered at the conclusion of the film, between 100 and 1,500 will come forward to profess their faith in Christ. At the conclusion of the JESUS film is when many have come forward and asked for a church to be planted in their village.

Among the members who have taken trips to Mozambique is Brent Nation, who has visited Mozambique twice and Malawi four times on mission.

Nation said despite the 40,000 who have accepted Christ, the harvest still is plentiful there.

“Two years ago I was at a leadership training meeting and a pastor said one mission trip will impact your life more spiritually than 52 sermons will,” he said. “This is a true statement. Not taking away from the sermons preached and lessons taught but these mission trips to Mozambique are life-changing. My prayer is for you to join us as we strive to reach people with the gospel and make disciples.

“When you truly grasp that there are actually people that have never heard the Gospel it will set your soul on fire,” he said. “God has given us a heart to share the Gospel and make disciples.”

Missions-minded heart

Their involvement with Mozambique reflects the heartbeat of Alpine First Baptist Church — missions and evangelism.

Of the 200 who attend Alpine First Baptist Church, 120 have taken a mission trip.

In addition to Mozambique and Malawi, the church sends teams to reach people attending the annual Tarpon Rodeo in Grand Isle.

And the others who may not participate in a mission trip take part in local evangelism efforts, such as a monthly outreach to homeless people in downtown Alexandria and the Pineville Project, a systematic approach to reaching everyone within five miles of the church with the Gospel.

“One thing I always keep in mind is our people here have embraced the vision to reach the people,” LaCour said. “They have been shown in Scripture the commandment to embrace it but they continually hear the power of the Gospel.

“They give, they pray, they encourage, they go,” he continued. “They see people come back from the mission field on fire for the Lord.”
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.


Swahili church plant
reaches refugees in S.C.

By Scott Vaughan

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Baptist Courier) — Spartanburg County has long been one of South Carolina’s most ethnically diverse areas of the state. Going back to the 1950s, it has been a place where people from around the world moved or resettled for work or education.

About 70 countries are represented in Spartanburg County, where international businesses (including Swiss and German textile mills, BMW, and Michelin) and eight colleges have a history.

Jim Goodroe, recently retired director of missions for the Spartanburg County Baptist Network, reflected on his county’s multiethnic history while telling the story of a new Swahili-speaking church that meets at a local Baptist church.

The story of the church plant is how God brought many people together under a vision to reach multiethnic people groups in South Carolina.

“When I first came to Spartanburg, I got more interested in missions because of the multiethnic environment here,” Goodroe said. “The Swahili congregation is an outgrowth of a 2008 commitment by our Baptist network to concentrate on meeting the needs of people of the world whom God is sending here.”

Goodroe’s excitement for reaching multiethnic people goes back to 2005, when he credits former SCBC church planting director Dino Senesi with inviting him to a national ethnic ministries conference. It was there the Lord gave Goodroe a vision to reach people groups beyond Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians, groups the state convention had a history of supporting.

“Our association came up with a model for our new direction in multiethnic ministry,” Goodroe said. “In 2009, we began taking new-plant ministers to the Ethnic America Network summits, and we were the first Baptist association to join. We hosted the summit here in Spartanburg in 2012. It’s three nights of worship, and then Friday and Saturday there are seminars about reaching immigrants and refugees.”

The excitement was stirred in the associational network. A lunch meeting was organized with Matthew Soerens, who is currently the U.S. church training specialist for World Relief, which is the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. Soerens helps churches and denominations address immigration issues from a biblical perspective. At the time, Soerens was in the United States to help connect American churches with immigrants and refugees.

About 70 people attended the luncheon with Soerens, including pastors, missions leaders and state convention leaders. “That luncheon got people very excited about reaching the people groups God was sending here,” said Goodroe. The growing excitement led to a World Relief office opening in Spartanburg in 2015.

“The biblical mandate to welcome the stranger is as strong as the pro-life mandate,” Goodroe said. “We don’t hear about it as much, but it’s there. The Great Commission, which appears more than once in Scripture, actually says, ‘As you go, make disciples,’ and we are to go everywhere to reach people, beginning right here in our communities. The Great Commission isn’t about arriving somewhere and making disciples, it’s about making them as you go.”

Enter Ryan Dupree.

Dupree is the full-time minister to internationals at First Baptist Church in Columbia and also the part-time multiethnic church consultant for the state Baptist convention.

“I do a lot of international and refugee work here in Columbia,” Dupree said. “Once each month I like to get our ethnic pastors together for a meal and fellowship. Through that, I learned that there was a resettling of about 75-80 Congolese people in Spartanburg.” The Congolese people are those from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa.

“I called my friend Samuel Kioko, who is pastor at Sunpoint Community Fellowship in Greenville,” said Dupree. “I asked Samuel to meet with me, Jason Lee of World Relief, and Jim Goodroe about the possibility of starting a Swahili-speaking church in Spartanburg. Many of these refugees were living in two apartment complexes very near one another — and very near Abner Baptist Church.”

The men visited the apartment complexes, stepping into the homes of the refugees. Kioko was able to communicate with them and afterward agreed to travel to and from Spartanburg and lead weekly Bible studies in the apartment complex.

“People began coming to the Bible studies,” Dupree said. “That’s how the church got its beginning, by meeting for study in homes as a home church.”

Dupree said refugees go through a two-year process when they flee their country. Following the background check process, refugees are registered by the United Nations, which works with host countries on resettlement. The process also includes connecting refugees to churches and individuals for a three-month support commitment. World Relief and, for a longer time, Lutheran Services have been South Carolina partners in resettlement.

“The majority of refugees are not English-speaking, and so they are plugged into English-as-a-Second-Language programs,” Dupree said. “Some of those attending the Swahili church do speak pretty good English.”

In February, Jason Lee began work with the SCBC as a people groups strategist, helping cast a vision for engaging different ethnicities in South Carolina. For the past two years, Lee worked in the Greenville-Spartanburg World Relief office. His credentials for loving and serving people of the world include service as a pastor and missionary, and refugee work with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Because I was in the Upstate working with World Relief, I was able to be a part of that group that visited the Swahili-speaking people living in the apartment complexes,” Lee said. “I had met Samuel Kioko while I was serving as a missionary in Kenya. Samuel knew Ryan Dupree at First Baptist, Columbia, and conversations had started about a Swahili-speaking church plant in Spartanburg. I knew Jim Goodroe because of the multiethnic passion born in the association. It was a coming together of several people to plant a church to reach this people group.

“In South Carolina, about 5 percent of our population is considered foreign born. If you open your Bible, the message from Genesis to Revelation is there: God has a desire to be worshipped among all nations. No longer do we need to go ‘over there’ to reach internationals, because God is bringing them here.

“Church revitalization is a big initiative right now among Baptists, and rightly so. What if the key to a historic church’s renewal and revitalization is partnering with the internationals whom God is bringing here? When you worship alongside people who have been persecuted for their faith and fled their homes to come here, well, it takes your freedom of worship experience to a different level.

“Many of the refugees coming here are Christian and are fleeing persecution over their faith. Some are fleeing the genocide and civil war that comes from new government regimes, but many are already Christians facing persecution.

“I think it’s interesting that, a century ago, Christian missionaries went abroad to share the Gospel with people in other countries, and now the families of those who became Christians are coming back here so we can minister to them as our missionaries once did over there.

“I know all of this is politically controversial right now, and the issues of refugee resettlement are confusing and complex, but we have a commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, and many of these refugees are looking to have what we have — freedom of worship.”

A church is born

Jim Goodroe remembers the day he was asked, “Will the network help start this church?”

“I said, ‘Yes, of course, we will.'”

Samuel Kioko, driving twice a week from Greenville, had been leading Bible studies and prayer meetings for the Swahili-speaking residents. The group had outgrown meeting space at one of two apartment complexes and had relocated to Abner Baptist Church, located very near the apartments.

Now it was time for Kioko to step out of the picture so he could remain in Greenville with his church. He enlisted two men to serve as co-pastors of what was growing into the Swahili-speaking congregation.

Augustin Mutabesha is a Congolese refugee who was fleeing Tanzania when his family was killed. He spent years in a refugee camp before landing in Spartanburg. Dr. Charles Kenya, from Kenya, came to Spartanburg in 2002 to attend college and then Sherman College of Chiropractic in Spartanburg. He is now an Upstate chiropractor.

“I was in school and learned of Samuel Kioko meeting with this group from Africa,” Kenya said. “I was asked to get involved, and I began going every Sunday to have services with them. When Samuel said he couldn’t continue coming, he asked me to step in as one of the pastors, and I agreed.” Kenya, like Mutabesha, has been ordained and is now fully involved in the new plant ministry.

“Our biggest challenge, the challenge of a new work, is that we must begin teaching ground-level theology, Baptist doctrine, and teach everything from a biblical perspective,” Kenya said. “That’s not always easy when you have a lot of people joining together from different backgrounds, and you say, ‘This is what we believe and do.'”

“It’s also a challenge to help them with the resettlement process,” Kenya said. “Some are still in process with paperwork, some are working and some are not, and we are teaching about financial giving to the church and that a local church supports itself.”

“Jim Goodroe and area churches have helped with the supplies we need,” Kenya said. “We need a Bible translation that we can all use. We need Sunday school materials and hymnbooks for Swahili, because our services are in Swahili and our church is advertised that way.”

Kenya was saved in 1981, along with his entire family, when United Methodist missionaries from Iowa came to his home. In 2001, a missionary asked him if he would come to Iowa and lead Bible studies, and it was the decision to attend school and become a chiropractor that moved him from Iowa to South Carolina. Kenya and his family are involved at Gateway Baptist Church in Boiling Springs. His co-pastor, Mutabesha, is involved at Hope Point Community Church, an SCBC congregation, which also supports the new Swahili congregation.

The Swahili congregation had its first service on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, with 25 Swahili-speaking attendees and 12 guests. At one recent service, there were 35 adults and 10 children meeting.

Kenya said that two are awaiting baptism, and he plans to use that service as a teaching moment for those attending.

Says Goodroe, “As I kind of ride off into retirement, it’s exciting to see what God is doing here and how He is bringing people together for kingdom work right here in Spartanburg.

“Not lost in all of this is the cooperative spirit of Abner Baptist, which allows the Swahili Church to meet there on Sunday afternoons.”

Tim Rice, director of missions mobilization for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, says, “Our desire as a state convention is to know the South Carolina immigrant, refugee and international visitor, and to reach people with our ethnic language churches. Jason Lee and Ryan Dupree will be helping us find pockets of people with whom we can share the Gospel, organize small groups, and start churches. That’s our goal.”
This article appeared in the Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Scott Vaughan writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.


Tenn. woman, church focus
on reaching their zip code

By Janice Backer

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) — The day that the lesbian couple next door stopped Vicki Hulsey at her mailbox to say that they would like to get to know her as their neighbor was a wakeup call from God.

Hulsey, the childhood specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, had lived six years in her neighborhood of 108 homes but really only knew five families.

“God could have slapped me up the side of the head,” she said. “Here I was traveling across the state of Tennessee, teaching people how to reach people, and I was not reaching my zip code.”

Hulsey told this story while leading a breakout session of the Missions Get-Together and Connection Conference held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center March 31-April 2, an annual event of Tennessee’s Woman’s Missionary Union.

Around the same time her church, Hermitage Hills Baptist in Hermitage, had grown so big that they decided to tear down their old building to build up since there was no land available.

However, now there would be no place to conduct their successful Vacation Bible School. After research, the church decided to hold Backyard Kids Clubs (BYKC).

“I was a 6-year-old girl and was saved at a Backyard Bible Club,” Hulsey said. So she had her first club with 12 children. Last summer more than 60 children attended using two yards in the neighborhood. Even the atheist couple across the street looks forward to the event and offer their driveway for parking and give presents for the door prizes, she said.

When we read Acts 1:8, we focus on “the uttermost parts of the world” Hulsey said. “We see ourselves as the ‘buckle of the Bible belt’ yet there are 4 million people in Tennessee who are lost.”

She emphasized that we need to realize that not everyone will come to a church building. “If you build it, they will not come.”

The BYKCs have been so successful that even though the building has been completed, Hulsey said that the church does not hold a traditional VBS. The church had 27 clubs last year. In addition it began to partner with local elementary schools by mentoring students in reading, collecting school supplies, proctoring for tests, volunteering at school events, and holding a teacher appreciation day. Because of the intentional relationships with the schools, this year the church will host BYKC in six elementary schools during the summer.

Hulsey said that if the trend continues, nine out of 10 children born after 9/11 will reach adulthood without knowing Christ. She challenged the group to think about their neighborhood and how they could share the Gospel, whether in a traditional VBS or in a backyard or school playground. The main thing is to share Christ where you are.

“Do it where you live,” she said.
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Janice Backer is a contributing writer for the Baptist and Reflector.


EDITOR’S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board’s call to embrace the world’s unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board’s call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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